Nick Clegg attacks Brussels establishment over 'sneering disregard' for 'politics of identity'
Nick Clegg has launched an extraordinary attack on the Brussels establishment, accusing EU officials of a "sneering disregard" for the politics of "identity and patriotism".
The former Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister, who began his political career working at the European Commission, said the drive towards ever-closer integration of EU member states had been a "terrible misreading" of citizens' concerns.
He also tore into Brexiteers in the UK, accusing them of launching an "ideological coup" spearheaded by "very rich, very angry men".
But it was his withering portrayal of eurocrats' attitude to national identity which will raise most eyebrows, given his well-known pro-EU views.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Lisbon Council last night, the former Sheffield Hallam MP said that when he worked in Brussels there had been a "a barely-concealed, almost sneering disregard for the politics of identity and the politics of patriotism".
"There was an assumption that patriotism was an old-fashioned vestige of an order that was dying away," he said.
"The genesis of European integration was to go above and beyond the trap of patriotic politics.
"But it was a terrible misreading of what makes people tick. We are all tribal people. You might not like it, but that’s who we are."
Mr Clegg also argued the solution to the rise of populism lay in combining patriotism with pro-Europeanism.
He said: "Internationalist liberals are now beginning to understand that while standing for Europe, you must do so wrapped in your own flag. Patriotic Europeanism is a perfectly consistent and compelling school of thought."